The three days in Paris ran out so quickly, as though we had just arrived. But there were still a couple of days forthcoming to see the lovely castles down the Loire River and the spectacular Mont Saint-Michel on the Atlantic coast…
The full itinerary in France looked like the following: Paris – Chenonceau – Amboise – Chambord – Paris – Mont Saint-Michel – Saint Malo – Paris – all within five days, three of them in Paris, and the other two, devoted to the Loire valley castles and to Normandy and Brittany, staying in a Paris hotel during the entire journey.
• Chenonceau – about 200 km away from Paris, this wonderful place revives a décor of a knight saga. You will pass a long and picturesque alley among old trees before reaching the fairy castle, built upon the river waters. The white building is surrounded by thoroughly shaped gardens as a final touch to its perfect harmony. Chenonceau was built in the 16th century and was known as „the women’s castle” for being associated with the fate of several famous women, Catherine de Medici amongst them. Besides the elegant furnishings and decorations, the castle owns a collection of works by old masters such as Tintoretto, Rubens, Murillo and an extremely rare collection of Flemish tapestries from the 16th century. The castle side pavilions nowadays host a cozy restaurant serving delicious food and unforgettable red wine from the Loire Valley, which we strongly recommend you 🙂
• Amboise castle is located in the town of Amboise along the river, just 20 km away from Chenonceau and is surrounded by stone walls. Until the early 17th century Amboise has been a royal residence and its chapel “St. Hubert” is famous as a location of the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci , who lived in the neighboring mansion last few years before his death. Becoming a favourite place for the French monarchs, Amboise is believed to be the place where the first Renaissance decorative motifs in the French architecture were implemented.
• Chambord castle is the largest castle in the Loire valley (with 440 rooms and 365 fireplaces) and has never been accomplished. From a distance it looks slightly surreal. This perhaps is due to its roof, mixing lots of geometric shapes with complete lack of symmetry. The roof silhouette reminds the roofs of a whole city and seems not to belong to a single building. The towers are 11 different sorts and chimneys – 3 various types. The Chambord chateau pattern is an amalgam of French medieval architecture and an Italian Renaissance. Many controversial opinions and researches exist about whom the Chambord construction plans belong to, assuming Leonardo da Vinci is one of the influencers of the castle design. The unusual and elaborate geometry of the roof seems to be closely related to Leonardo, doesn’t it? And the very idea of Chambord castle construction belongs indisputably to King François I.
View hotels in the Loire Valley
On the way back to Paris we again passed by many small and lovely villages. The vicinity around the Loire valley was all so green and peaceful and the castles – so gorgeous and superb, that we felt some kind of nostalgie for the past we have never lived in, but that seemed to have been too exciting…
On the next morning we set course to northwest to reach:
• Le Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy – The legend of the island refers back to the 8th century to the Archangel Michael, as suggested by its name, who appeared before a bishop and later on that place a small church was built. In the following centuries the site continued to attract pilgrims and to grow as a spiritual center. In 999, a Benedictine church was built, and soon after that commenced the construction of a monastery, which architecture had been repeatedly improved in the next four centuries, particularly when the Gothic style won recognition.
The climb to the monastery and the church at the top starts from a gateway in the fortification walls and goes through a picturesque and steep stone street and medieval houses with ground floors now sheltering lovely souvenir shops, cafés and restaurants. At low tides the ocean withdraws with about 11 kilometers and if looking down from the high monastery terrace in such a moment, you may see many people walking along the sandy bottom, and facing the endless waters of the Atlantic that seems too hazardous … Today Le Mont Saint-Michel is the second most visited place in France after Paris, standing about 350 km away from the French capital. It was connected with the mainland by a dry causeway, and before 1879 the causeway was tidal, so in high tides it was covered and appeared only in low tides.Very recently the project of a dam and a bridge construction has been completed and Mont Saint-Michel is again a genuine island.
View the spectacular hotels in Mont Saint-Michel
• Saint Malo in the province of Brittany. With its distinctive northern seaport architecture dating from 17-18th centuries, and well known as a former pirate haunt, the city of Saint Malo irresistibly attracts lots of tourists. Walking along the windy quey and the charming streets in the old town surrounded by fortification walls, visiting the Saint- Vincent Cathedral, the Solidor tower, the Aquarium or the tomb of Chateaubriand on the nearby island, are some of the options to explore the city. And why not just have a seat in some of the many restaurants and taste the incomparably delicious local seafood? Whatever you choose, you will certainly remember the time spent on this extraordinary place. Even after the Paris brilliance and the fairy chateaus in the Loire valley, the streets of Saint Malo and the city outlook from the marina left a profound imprint on our hardened souls 🙂
View hotels in Saint Malo
Paris, the Loire valley, Mont Saint-Michel … so different in appearance and atmosphere that seemed to be parts of three separate trips. But it was all in one – from the tranquil and sunny countryside along the Loire, then through the Normandy landscapes full of windmills, horses and hay, yet the severe climate of the northern ports…. to the glamorous Paris and its wonderful museums and art galleries!